State of the Saints: Lets Get Back To “Finishing Strong”
Who Dats Fall to 0-2 in Consecutive Nail-Biters
By: Stefan Muro
It seems like another lifetime ago when the New Orleans Saints hoisted the Vince Lombardi Trophy as the number one seed in the NFC and Super Bowl champions. They were dominant in 2009 with a point to “finish strong” every game. Seven years later, the team struggles to get back into the win column and needs to finish strong more than ever.
With this game as the first without rising star-cornerback, Delvin Breaux, the Saints defense did surprisingly well keeping the New York Giants top ten offense out of the end zone. For an offense that is used to putting up 26 points per game, the Saints’ 31st ranked defense held the potent Giants offense to 0 points and 64 rushing yards. But still, Eli Manning aired 368 passing yards to put kicker, Josh Brown, into good enough position to hit three of his four field goal attempts; which included a game winner.
Unfortunately, the defense lost another causality in stud cornerback, P.J. Williams. The 2015 3rd round draft pick from Florida State was the feature cornerback in Breaux’s place. He suffered a concussion and neck injury in the first half and was carted off the field. Williams is currently placed on injured reserve and his return time is indefinite. Cornerbacks Sterling Moore and De’Vante Harris stepped up to keep New Orleans natives, Odell Beckham, Jr. and Eli Manning, out of the end zone.
When the team’s below average defense can provide three turnovers, it’s expected that an elite, Drew Brees led, offense can capitalize on such a rare opportunity. Unfortunately, they did not score following any of the turnovers. In fact, the only Giants’ touchdown came from a blocked field goal return on one of those drives. The Saints’ 9th ranked offense only managed to rack up 288 total yards, 16 first downs, and didn’t get into the end zone until the 4th quarter. When the Saints’ offense didn’t turn the ball over, who is to blame?
Drew Brees is ranked 4th in passing yards (686) and tied 2nd in touchdown passes (5) on 0 interceptions. On the other hand, starting running back Mark Ingram has only 89 rushing yards and without a touchdown in the first two weeks. This is because the Saints’ offense has called to throw the ball approximately 72% of the time. Offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael, Jr., calls the shots and coach Sean Payton doesn’t seem to have a problem with Carmichael’s decisions. Payton says, “We’re not going to grade Pete each week on. I know we’re not going to do that. We need to be better on third down. That wasn’t very good.” After week two of the regular season, the Saints’ offense is ranked 26th in 3rd down efficiency.
The Saints have a perfect opportunity to bounce back on Monday Night Football. Ironically, they host the Atlanta Falcons on the ten-year anniversary of Steve Gleason’s famous blocked punt that surged this franchise to greatness. Since the Falcons are ranked 31st in run defense, this is a good opportunity for Mark Ingram to establish the run. A night like that will once again inspire Sean Payton’s crew to “Finish Strong.”